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Annan to speak to Sudan's president over ban on UN

Annan to speak to Sudan's president over ban on UN relief chief's trip to Darfur

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is seeking to speak to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir after his Government banned a visit by the top United Nations relief official to the Darfur region, where fighting between the Government, pro-government militias and rebels has killed scores of thousands and uprooted millions.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland's plane was refused permission to land on Sunday at the start of what was to have been a five-day visit to Africa's largest country, where the UN is heavily involved in trying both to ease the Darfur crisis and to promote the rehabilitation of the recently pacified South.

Mr. Egeland eventually flew from Uganda to Juba, capital of southern Sudan, by commercial plane but, after spending a day in the town of Rumbek, he left the country when the Government's refusal to let he him visit Darfur aborted the trip.

“This obstruction is part of a larger whole,” Mr. Egeland said in an interview with UN Radio. “To block me from going to Darfur and saying I’m unwelcome to go to Khartoum and even today blocking me traveling with my plane over Darfur to go to Chad just goes to show how difficult is the work of my colleagues on the ground.”

He praised UN agencies that are “courageously” trying to get help to millions in Darfur despite the obstacles. “What I saw today and yesterday is symptomatic of a Government not helping us to help their own people in a situation where more and more are displaced and there is more and more violence and insecurity.”

Calling the situation “intolerable,” he stressed the need for international action, including the provision of resources, to help the people of Darfur. “At the moment the UN doesn’t even have enough money to give adequate food rations to everybody,” he observed.

“The Secretary-General regrets that the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, was not permitted by the Government of Sudan to visit Darfur,” a statement issued by Mr. Annan's spokesman said.

“The pressing and urgent humanitarian requirements of Darfur are a priority for the United Nations and coordination efforts to sustain this large programme were at the centre of Mr. Egeland's visit.

The Security Council echoed Mr. Annan’s comments on Sudan’s Darfur region, with the President of the 15-member body for April, Ambassador Wang Guangya of China, telling reporters that the Council “shares the concerns of the Secretary-General,” and calling on all parties in Sudan to give more cooperation to UN missions.

“The Secretary-General will be seeking to speak to President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir on this matter,” the statement added.

For the past three years Mr. Egeland, who is a well-known champion of international humanitarian assistance around the world, has been highlighting the plight of those caught up in the conflict in Darfur in western Sudan, where more than 180,000 people have been killed and 2 million more displaced in the fighting.

An enquiry set up by Mr. Annan found that there had been war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides, but primarily by Government forces and militias. It referred a list of 51 as-yet undisclosed names to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible prosecution.

In the southern Sudan, UN agencies are heavily engaged in preparing for the return home of some 4.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) uprooted by a two-decade long war between the Government and rebels which ended with a peace accord 15 months ago.

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